UCC pastor: Lift Title 42 now, for the children
As an immigrant welcoming church, the United Church of Christ is looking to the end of Title 42, a public health order that blocks migrants at the border from seeking asylum. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control planned to eliminate Title 42 on May 23, but that move was blocked last week by a federal judge, leaving asylum seekers in dangerous limbo. Here is more about that, from a United Church of Christ pastor serving in the borderlands.
The clouds in the Arizona sky were turning pink on May 21 as we traveled on the dirt road that runs for miles along the towering border wall near Sasabe. Our plan was to camp out for the evening in the shadow of the wall and witness for ourselves the steady stream of unaccompanied minors and families crossing through the gaps in the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
For nearly 20 years the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans have operated out of The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Ariz. Our ministry offers humanitarian support to sojourners in the desert of the borderlands.
Within minutes of driving on the border road on that Saturday, we came around a bend. There, standing in the middle of the road, was “un niño” in blue jeans, a clean bright t-shirt, and a backpack slung over his shoulder. The boy was just as surprised and shocked as we were. We approached him, calmly saying, “Mijo, que pasa? (“My son, what’s going on?”) The tears began to swell in his eyes.
The boy’s name was Esteban. He was just 5 years old, way too young to be making such a dangerous journey by himself. He traveled over 3,000 miles from Guatemala on his way to relatives in Memphis, Tenn. Most likely, his parents had accompanied him to the border, fleeing the terror and violence of gangs and cartels. But upon arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border they were stopped cold, unable to apply for asylum because of Title 42.
For the past two years, the Trump and Biden administrations have callously used Title 42, an obscure public health policy, to lock down the border. They say Title 42 is in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is clear now that it is just a vicious tool used to grind the legal flow of immigration to a halt — stopping people like Esteban and his parents.
When the family’s legal avenue to seek asylum was blocked, they desperately tried to cross through the desert. But that experience was unbearable, ending with their apprehension by the Border Patrol. Now they were at a crossroads. Returning home was unthinkable and staying at the border meant death. So Esteban’s parents made the most heartbreaking decision a parent could ever make: “Send Esteban across alone, so he could live.”
After we comforted Esteban and assured him everything was going to be all right, I climbed into our clearly marked Samaritan van to go search for a Border Patrol agent. It wasn’t long before I returned with an agent in tow and the process was begun. Esteban would soon be in Tucson where he would be handed over to U.S. Health and Human Services social workers. They would take the name and number of his relatives in Tennessee and reunite them as quickly as possible.
The poor and vulnerable people fleeing violence have few options. They have nowhere to go, so they form an endless human stream to the border. But now they are trapped by Title 42 — and time only makes the situation deadly and dangerous. Every night there are more and more children just like Esteban walking alone on a dusty desert road. Lift Title 42 now! Do it for the children!
The Rev. Randy Mayer is a pastor/activist at The Good Shepherd UCC, Sahuarita, Ariz.
The United Church of Christ offers congregations resources, found here, to assist migrants if Title 42 ends.
Content on ucc.org is copyrighted by the National Setting of the United Church of Christ and may be only shared according to the guidelines outlined here.
For a second straight year, the United Church of Christ's national ministries have made a list...Read More
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ will get back to business a year from now....Read More
A celebration of life will be held July 13 for the Rev. Jane Heckles, an influential...Read More